Governor Kristi Noem issued two executive orders yesterday aimed at controlling the spread of covid-19.
EO 2020-04 declares a statewide state of emergency. It vests oversight of all covid-19 control and containment measures in the state Department of Health, exempts from federal motor carrier safety regulations “the transportation and delivery of emergency relief supplies and services such as vaccines, antivirals, prescription drugs, protective equipment, and other necessary medical assets.” (Toilet paper is not mentioned.) The state of emergency stands until April 12, unless the Governor says otherwise.
EO 2020-05 orders all non-essential state employees under the Governor’s control to work from home Sunday, March 15, through Saturday March 21. Those who can’t work remotely get administrative leave. The Governor is also banning work-related out-of-state travel during the coming week.
Having declared an emergency, Governor Noem now has the statutory authority to, among other things, seize private facilities, equipment, and supplies (though not cash or guns); suspend the rules of state agencies that might hinder response to the epidemic; restrict travel into, out of, or within South Dakota; and control “the occupancy of premises within the area.”
Neither of the orders includes the Governor’s request that South Dakota’s K-12 schools not hold classes next week. However, while school closings are usually a local decision, that last emergency power I mentioned would appear to allow the Governor to order that no one may occupy the premises of any school, public or private, for whatever period of time she feels necessary to address a public health emergency.